On a Saturday morning in October 2022, two hospital employees, Jacqueline Pokuaa and Katie Flowers, were killed in a shooting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. The suspected shooter, Nestor Hernandez, was on parole for aggravated robbery and had an active GPS ankle monitor on when the shooting occurred. In addition, Hernandez had previously violated his parole multiple times by failing drug tests, failing to comply with a curfew, and cutting off his ankle monitor.
In response, State Representative Rafael Anchía filed legislation to try to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. Although several of the proposed bills have died in committee, just seven months after the Dallas shooting, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill (SB) 1004 into law, making cutting off ankle monitors a crime in Texas.
Purposes of Ankle Monitoring
Ankle monitoring is generally used as an alternative (or precursor) to incarceration. There are several types of ankle monitors, including GPS location trackers and alcohol monitoring devices. GPS ankle monitors allow correctional officers to view real-life movements and exact locations of offenders. Depending on the type of offender, some ankle monitors confine individuals to house arrest, while others define exclusion zones that a person is not allowed to enter.
Alcohol ankle monitors allow correctional officers to detect if an offender has consumed any amount of alcohol at any time, rather than random or scheduled testing which can result in wearers drinking around testing times.
After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions turned to remote ankle monitoring to keep convicted criminals out of crowded prisons, where the virus could spread rampantly. As the use of ankle monitoring technology increases in a post-pandemic world, states are creating new legislation to combat these challenges.
What Does TX SB 1004 Change?
In the past, cutting off or tampering with an ankle monitor was only an administrative violation in Texas. In 2022, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), 1,127 warrants were executed for people on parole or mandatory supervision who cut their ankle monitors.
The Dallas Medical Center shooting is only one of many instances in which criminally charged individuals have cut off their ankle monitors and vanished or committed further crimes while wearing these devices. By enforcing tampering with or removal of ankle monitors as a felony, law enforcement aims to dissuade individuals on remote monitoring from committing further crimes.
When TX SB 1004 goes into effect on September 1st, 2023, individuals who tamper with or cut off their ankle monitor will face an additional felony on top of their previous sentence in the state of Texas.